In the years since our time working together in retail hell, Phillip* and I had kept in sporadic contact. Just when I’d start to wonder how he was doing, the phone would ring or an email would arrive. This time, it had been somewhere in the neighborhood of a year without contact when I received a call from him. As usual, Phillip’s voice was its upbeat self (monotone, except for the upward intonation always on the last syllable). He talked of his new job, new house, new car, all of the good turns his life had taken. Phillip was a good guy, but a good guy hounded by demons of which his dominance over waxed and waned like an AA member who is forever re-achieving that 30-day sobriety coin. This is why hearing about the good things in his life was reason to rejoice. So, before hanging up, I invited Phillip to the house for dinner. We’d make gnocchi, it’d be a good time.
It’s just dinner. What could possibly go wrong?
Phillip arrived, had found my directions clear enough, had hit no traffic, etc. Waiting for our guest was a 4-pack of his drink of choice, Guinness. I told him to take home whatever he didn’t finish because neither myself nor my wife are big beer drinkers. “I’ll probably finish ‘em,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t like to leave a Guinness unopened. It’s a crime, Mike. I can’t do it.” And with a click-fwwish, he opened his first can. Read more
For a few years, I worked a relatively dead-end job at a custom framing store. Besides getting many things of my own nicely framed, I got a story or two to tell.
The store I worked at had a contract with the San Francisco 49ers, in which all of their framing needs (which were a lot more than you might think) would be done by us. During the football season, autographed photos and memorabilia, along with action shots from the team’s photographer, came through the store on a seemingly endless conveyor belt of red and gold. The store’s owner was more of a guy’s guy than me (as are most men, most photographs of men and most symbols on men’s room doors) and would fawn over each picture with an enthusiasm I couldn’t understand.
“When I finish knitting these personalized elbow pads for pop’s jersey, he’ll know I’m no weirdo about sports.”
For a few years, I worked a relatively dead-end job at a custom framing store. Had I been an artist, this job would have made a lot of sense because framing can get expensive. For me, this job made as much sense as my getting an internship with a chiropractor to further my literary pursuits.
“Are you my doctor?”
“Me? No, no. I’m a writer with absolutely no interest in medicine.”
Ultimately, I did get many things of my own nicely framed, things which continue to decorate my home to this day. Aside from that, I got a story or two to tell.
A man came in to frame two stamps and their corresponding lithographs. The stamps were part of a series that showcased breeds of ducks (apparently, there had been great demand for duck stamps and the USPS jumped at the chance to benefit from this overwhelming public opinion to the tune of, what I presume, to be dozens of dollars.) As he set them on the counter, I said, “Those are really pretty. What kind of ducks are those?”
This is a story I remembered while writing the post Fishing For Spite. It wasn’t relevant to that post, so I left it out and decided to make it its own little episode.
One evening, I came home to Prozac Nation through the private door of my mirrored, pink-walled, former salon of a room and was met by the unwelcome but familiar sounds of a very loud party. Oh, lovely. These would be our housemate Chris’ friends, that wasn’t a question. His friends were nice enough, but they partied a lot and with a variety of both legal and illegal means. I walked in through the door connecting my room with the living room and saw that the house was only a few busted lightbulbs and exposed wall studs away from being completely trashed in the traditional sense.
“Nah, bro. This was like this when we got here. I think you, like, have mice or termites or somethin’.”
I had saved up money working at a craft store and was going to spend the next year writing fiction (in my later years, I intend to begin this story with “I had saved up money working as headlining exotic dancer, Eduardo Da Beef, at Madame Chao’s Club Exotica” but I’m still piecing that lie together). I was 23, when being a struggling artist had an air of romanticism to it, and believed that the misunderstood, angst-y BS I was about to write would be defining of myself and my generation, that my job at the craft store would no doubt be my last working for someone else. Financial independence was right around the corner!
My intentions were to write and become famous (SPOILER: It didn’t happen), but I also needed a new place in which to do it.
Now, the story begins…
“A toast to our fun living situation. Long may it continue as it currently is without a single change.”